Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest Post: "Inspired to Remember" by Desirée Scarambone


I'm so pleased to introduce our next guest author, my friend and colleague, Desirée Scarambone, author of the wonderful book "Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters". 


Finding inspiration in unexpected places is a thrill that never gets old.  Whether it’s that bright flash of suddenly understanding a problem by looking from a different point of view, or the slow dawning that synthesizing seemingly unrelated ideas sometimes brings, it’s a rush that the hungry mind meets with pleasure.  Unfortunately, those “aha!” moments don’t come every day, but sometimes, on a very lucky day, inspiration strikes twice.  

Because I know that fellow teachers and musicians can appreciate the excitement of inspiration, I wanted to share with you some of my more recent “aha” moments.  

Late this spring, after Federation auditions, theory tests, spring recitals, piano festivals and a general flurry of performances, my students began slowly dispersing to take on their summer adventures, and I greeted June with a sigh of relief. 

“Now”, I thought, “I’ll have time to catch up on my reading.” 

I considered my queue, which had grown to an unmanageable size throughout the spring semester, and felt a bit overwhelmed by my ambitions.  In an attempt to avoid the mountainous pile of books awaiting my attention, I decided to spend an evening cleaning out a cabinet of music, books and various papers.  This is how I stumbled across an old article written by Joshua Foer (Secrets of a Mind Gamer) - published around the time his book Moonwalking with Einstein debuted.  Four years ago a dear student from long ago sent a copy to me, and at that time I casually read through the article then put it aside.  This evening, however, I settled down to read the article with great interest.  

In the midst of piles of papers and books to be organized, I felt that Foer was somehow touching upon the solution to a problem I didn’t know I had, and despite the physical chaos surrounding me, I felt a small flame of inspiration and order begin to light my way.  That evening I borrowed a copy of Moonwalking with Einstein from the library and read through, practically without stopping.  

Moonwalking with Einstein  (found here) is Foer’s documentation of his journey into the world of memory championships.  He discusses how he learned to train his mind to think and remember an immense amount of information in a very short time.  If that’s not fascinating to a teacher, what is?

The potential of a “trained” mind is not foreign to a musician, because although we execute our art physically, music is primarily an exercise of the mind.   But how exactly does how a memory champion trains relate to what a musician (or music student) does?   Are there any mnemonic devices or techniques to be gleaned from their repertoire and added to our own?

As I read, fascinated, I began thinking of various applications - and then I got to chapter 8.  The title of the chapter is The OK Plateau (Foer gives a talk about it here).  It ignited the bright light kind of “aha” moment.  In this chapter he discusses how he began to question how professionals of every walk of life reach a higher level of capability than others.  Is it, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests, 10,000 hours of practice?  (That number is nice, but haven’t we always felt that something is slightly askew with that simple formula?)  No, he concludes that it’s reaching past what he calls the OK Plateau.  Granted, The OK Plateau is, basically, metacognition in action, but would my students respond to the word “Metacognition” or the words “The OK Plateau”?  Would they respond to a lecture about “Think when you play!”  from me, or would they respond to a young, interesting journalist talking about unexpectedly becoming a memory champion because he wouldn’t let himself be just “ok”.  

The video linked above became my secret weapon for combating the OKs and Blahs that I sometimes see my early adolescent students facing.  If they stop hearing me when I say “think about what you’re doing!” maybe they’ll hear Foer.  

In literature and on television (BBC’s Sherlock, for example) memory palaces are alluded to, but they seem mysterious - fictional at the worst, unapproachable for the ordinary mortal mind at best.   Joshua Foer discusses how they are approachable for any mind, how they work, and how to use them.  

Learning a Beethoven sonata by building a memory palace seemed a bit farfetched (if I can figure out exactly how to do that, you’ll be the first to know), but learning who Beethoven was seemed to be the perfect application.  

This came to mind because while preparing for theory exams (a combo of theory and history in our case) I noticed that even well-read students with ample exposure to classical music were struggling with the various eras of classical music, which composer belonged to which and who composed what.  I decided to experiment.  We built a memory palace of my own house in their minds.  By the end of a 15 minute story in which we covered composers from Vivaldi to the Beatles, a group of students of various ages (from 9 to 14 in my experimental class) had a firm grasp of eras, composers and pieces.  It was nothing short of miraculous.  And one of the most exciting discoveries they made is that they’re capable of seemingly impossible feats by simply engaging and applying their imaginations.  


Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters is available for Kindle. 



About the author: Desirée Bradford Scarambone is a classically trained pianist with a profound love of teaching.  She is a professional piano teacher with over 15 years of experience teaching students of all levels. 
She earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Houston, Texas, where she studied with Ruth Tomfohrde, Timothy Hester and Horacio Gutiérrez, and pursued graduate studies in Piano Pedagogy with Dr. Melody Hanberry Payne at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi.  In the imminent future Desirée plans to begin the pursuit of a Doctorate of Philosophy in Musicology at the University of Kentucky. 
She is a member of The National Federation of Music Clubs, The American College of Musicians, The National Music Teachers Association and The College Music Society.  Desirée has served as an adjudicator for competitions and festivals, and her students have won prizes and honors for their performances. 
Her previous literary projects include the scripts and music for two children’s musicals commissioned and staged by the Blue Barn Theatre in Port Gibson, Mississippi.
Desirée currently lives in the beautiful Blue Grass area of Kentucky with her husband, professional pianist and professor, Dr. Bernardo Scarambone, where they homeschool their three children and teach full time.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Register for the "Getting Started with Online Lessons" Training Webinar!


The live webinar has passed, but you can view a recording of the entire enhanced webinar on-demand HERE

Do you want to…
  • stop teaching makeup lessons?
  • learn about the setup and implementation of online lessons? 
  • develop a contemporary and cutting-edge studio?
  • enhance your teaching and maximize your teaching efforts? 
  • be the most forward-thinking and trend-setting teacher on the block?
  • increase your client base, teaching hours, and income?
  • offer experiences to your students that they will remember for years to come?
  • gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence you need to start teaching online lessons? 

Did you answer "YES" to these questions? Then you’ve come to the right place! I'm so excited to announce that this brand new training webinar, "Getting Started with Online Lessons", will be presented LIVE to you in the comfort of your own home! 

What will I learn in this webinar?
This webinar will train you in the setup and implementation of online lessons, which will help you develop a contemporary and cutting-edge studio. You will learn about the equipment and tools you need to begin teaching online lessons. You will learn how to use these tools effectively to enhance your teaching, increase your income, and maximize your teaching efforts. If you want to be the most forward-thinking and trend-setting teacher on the block, if you would love to increase your client base, teaching hours, and income, and if you want to offer experiences to students around the world that they will remember for years to come, then online teaching might be just what you’ve been looking for! Join me as I answer your burning questions about online lessons, help you gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence you need to start teaching online lessons, and help you discover ways to expand your studio offerings, set your studio apart, and take your studio to the next level! 

What topics will you cover? 

  • Pros and Cons of Online Lessons
  • Setting Up Your Online Teaching Equipment: The Basics
  • Setting Up Your Online Teaching Equipment: Add-Ons to Enhance the Lesson Experience
  • Considering Your Client Base
  • Policy Information for Online Students
  • Payment Information for Online Students
  • Teaching Tips for Online Lessons
  • Games and Activities for Online Students
  • Bonus Information and Gift for All Attendees
  • Q&A 

How much is the investment? 
The regular price of this webinar is $69. Attendees who register in the first 24 hours can enter coupon code REGISTERNOW14 at checkout to take $10 off the total price, so hurry and submit your registration today! With the coupon code, valid only for 24 hours, the price is $59. 

Seating is limited to the first 25 teachers who register. 

When is the webinar? 
Monday, October 27, 2014, 1:00-2:40 p.m. Eastern Time (I'm in the same timezone as New York City). The live webinar has passed, but you can view a recording of the entire enhanced webinar on-demand HERE

What if I can't attend the live webinar? Will it be recorded?
Absolutely. The live webinar has passed, but you can view a recording of the entire enhanced webinar on-demand HERE

I've never attended a webinar before. Is it easy to sign up? 
Yes, it's really very easy. You'll receive instructions and additional information via email from AnyMeeting after you register. Helpful information for attendees can be found here. There's also a list of helpful connectivity tips here. If your computer has a firewall, you'll have to set it up to allow incoming connections from AnyMeeting Launcher, and I'll be glad to help you do that if you need help. If you still have questions, you are welcome to email me at MelodyPayneWebinar@gmail.com and I'll be happy to help you. 

Do I have to watch the webinar on my computer? 
You can view it on your computer/laptop if you like, but you can also view it on your tablet or smartphone. All you'll need to do is click the link provided in the email you received after you registered and enter the password you chose during registration. You can even call in and listen on your phone if you prefer. 

I'm ready to learn how to teach online lessons! How do I register?
Click the photo below and you'll be taken to the online registration form where you'll register for the webinar and pay via PayPal. Don't forget to enter the coupon code! 

Join me, and let's get started with online lessons!

Click the photo to REGISTER TODAY, fill out the online registration form, and remember to enter coupon code REGISTERNOW14 to save $10 for the first 24 hours only! Be sure to click the statement next to the coupon code box to APPLY the code, then click the PayPal button to complete your registration! 








Monday, September 22, 2014

Guest Post: The Long View by Dr. Steve Betts

It is my honor to introduce our next guest, Dr. Steve Betts, professor, mentor, and friend. 


The new school year brings new chapters in our students’ learning. Many students have probably had some kind of break over the summer and are ready for a fresh start in their piano lessons. As I have been thinking about my own students and this new year, I am contemplating the long view. What lifetime goals do I envision for my students’ involvement with music. The following ideas come to my mind; I’m sure you will have your own goals to guide your teaching this year.
An emotional connection with music
Throughout the world music provides joy, meaning, and enrichment to humans’ emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Music has the power to soothe, to celebrate, or to help us reflect. Does this emotional connection happen each week in our students’ lessons with us? Are there pieces, improvisations, or other activities that allow music to speak to our students’ lives? To facilitate this emotional connection several factors may need to be present:
Am I progressively discovering with each student what music speaks to them?
Are some of the pieces I assign at an appropriate level of difficulty (or non-difficulty) to allow artistic music making to occur?
Do my students and their parents know this is an important part of music study? Have I articulated this belief, or do I just expect them to “catch it”?
Proficient sight-reading ability
I believe strongly that proficient music reading ability promotes lifelong participation in music. While at a dinner with some faculty colleagues a few years ago, one of the spouses was commenting on how she had been a “successful” piano student—practiced diligently, participated and succeeded in auditions and recitals, and enjoyed her lessons. I asked if she played much as an adult and she said she did not play much now. When I asked why, she said it was because she did not read well enough. If our students are going to use the music making skills as they become busy adults, they need the ability to play through music without having to surmount reading challenges. It is so easy for the urgent pressures of auditions and recitals to squeeze out the important sight reading work. Is it easy to find time to sight read? No. Is it crucial? In my opinion, yes.
Character development and self-esteem
While the beauty of music study provides sufficient reason to study the piano, there are other positive aspects to music study. These are proclaimed often by educators, school officials, arts advocates, and media, and a list is probably not needed here. Because we often interact with students in a one-to-one relationship, I believe we have the ability to help music study develop true self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from giving your best effort and realizing the results of that effort. In his book Setting the Table, Danny Meyer discusses the concept of “constant, gentle pressure” in developing the employees in his New York City restaurants.1 Results come from work, and our students often need this constant, gentle pressure to keep moving forward. Of course, as students mature, the goal is for them to provide their own motivation to their lives. Music study can be an avenue to show students the possibilities their lives hold. What an honor and privilege to help guide them in this process.
The three concepts above are important to my philosophy of teaching. Your may have additional or different goals, but the start of this new teaching year offers an opportunity to reflect on how our students will engage with music the rest of their lives. Teach well.
1Meyer, Danny. (2006.) Setting the Table. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, p. 189. 

About the Author: Dr. Steve Betts is Professor of Music and Associate Dean of the Shelby and Ferne Collinsworth School of Music at California Baptist University in Riverside, CA, where he teaches Applied Piano, Class Piano, Piano Pedagogy, and Piano Literature, and directs one of the university's women's choirs. He serves as a managing editor for Clavier Companion and is a contributing author to the Frances Clark Library for Piano Students






Friday, September 19, 2014

Teach Like A Pirate, Me Hearties!


Avast ye!! Did ye know that today, 9/19, is Talk Like A Pirate Day? Give your little buccaneers a fun way to review 48 music symbols with me brand new exciting pirate-themed Music Symbol Memory Match game! Aye, these pages feature buccaneers, pirate lads, and pirate lassies who are happy to help your young mateys get shipshape with a treasure of music symbols. 

This game, and many other pirate resources, are on sale for 50% off until midnight tonight! Search PirateMusicFlashSale at TpT to see all the goodies! 

Yo ho ho, here are some sneak peek photos of some of the freshly-printed pages from me fun new game!



This download includes 2 matching games: Game 1 contains two each of 48 different cards, and game 2 contains one card for each symbol and one matching card containing the music term. These two games are fabulous for music camps, group classes, or the elementary music classroom. The game also includes images to print on the backs of the cards - featuring all three composers! 

Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen, mateys! Hurry over to TpT, and remember to search PirateMusicFlashSale to see a treasure trove of goodies! 



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review of Desirée Scarambone's "Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters"



Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters is a delightful book by Desirée Scarambone, cleverly illustrated by her husband Dr. Bernardo Scarambone. If you've heard of Memory Palaces, you'll be familiar with how this book is put together and how it helps students remember facts about composers, where they were from, their names, what era they lived in, and more. For students like me, who always had a little difficulty recalling facts such as names and places, this book will be a gold mine of information! By following the suggestions of the author, students will quickly learn about the master composers in a fun and engaging way, and they'll be thirsty for more. 

I won't give too much away in this review because the book is full of many wonderful memory aids, featuring composers in surprising and delightfully quirky situations! 

The way the author presents the years of each era is brilliant, the memory aids are perfect, and I absolutely could not put this book down once I started reading it. The illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the stories, the mental images the author creates are lively and vivid, and they are perfect for visual learners as well as kids who love listening to stories; they'll be loved and appreciated by all students who are learning about the master composers. Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters is required reading in my studio from now on! 

Who can use this book? Everyone! It would be an amazing tool in the studio as well as the classroom, perfect for a music history or composer unit, reviewing for a festival, used in a group music class or music camp, it could correspond with a bulletin board in your classroom or studio, serve as a substitute teacher activity, as a cross-curricular activity in which students could illustrate as they listen to the story, and so much more. 

Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters is imaginative, creative, pedagogically sound, and a valuable and amazing resource. Your students will thank you for helping them remember these important and musical facts in a way they never knew was possible. I recommend this book 100%. 


Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters is available for Kindle. 


About the author of Classical Composers: A Home in Your Head for the Musical Masters: Desirée Bradford Scarambone is a classically trained pianist with a profound love of teaching.  She is a professional piano teacher with over 15 years of experience teaching students of all levels. 
She earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Houston, Texas, where she studied with Ruth Tomfohrde, Timothy Hester and Horacio Gutiérrez, and pursued graduate studies in Piano Pedagogy with Dr. Melody Hanberry Payne at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi.  In the imminent future Desirée plans to begin the pursuit of a Doctorate of Philosophy in Musicology at the University of Kentucky. 
She is a member of The National Federation of Music Clubs, The American College of Musicians, The National Music Teachers Association and The College Music Society.  Desirée has served as an adjudicator for competitions and festivals, and her students have won prizes and honors for their performances. 
Her previous literary projects include the scripts and music for two children’s musicals commissioned and staged by the Blue Barn Theatre in Port Gibson, Mississippi.
Desirée currently lives in the beautiful Blue Grass area of Kentucky with her husband, professional pianist and professor, Dr. Bernardo Scarambone, where they homeschool their three children and teach full time.


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